Taking stock of mental health

Q: What are your most recent efforts in Congress to strengthen access to mental health care?

A: American society continues to make progress in reducing the stigma long associated with mental illness. We still have work to do to raise awareness and expand access to behavioral health care services so that people with mental health issues can get treatment and get on the road to recovery. As a federal policymaker, I have worked to help eliminate the stigma of mental illness, especially among farmers, veterans, new mothers and first responders and to advance measures to expand access to mental health services. In 2020, I led the passage of the bipartisan Seeding Rural Resilience Act to help curb rising suicide rates in rural America and pressed the Biden administration to enforce the law. The law ordered the USDA to implement a voluntary stress management program to train front-line employees to help detect stress in the farmers they do business with. More than 95% of USDA employees at the Farm Production and Conservation Business Center have completed their training to carry out this important mission. As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I helped make telemental health services a permanent benefit under Medicare. I recognized the importance of this service for seniors, especially those living in rural areas who would otherwise need to drive for hours to see a mental health professional in person. In my longstanding efforts to improve maternal health care in rural America, I reintroduced the bipartisan Healthy Moms and Babies Act to improve maternal care for mothers and newborns. This includes the use of telehealth and community care efforts to improve access to care for mental disorders and addictions. Earlier this year, I reintroduced legislation to help police, firefighters, emergency medical services and 911 personnel deal with the stress they experience in responding to crisis situations. The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act would establish mental health programs for first responders in communities of all sizes. Most recently, I teamed up on legislation to ensure the Biden administration meets congressional intent on a federal law I supported called the MISSION Act of 2018. It was designed to ensure veterans a quick access to non-VA vendors. Last year, I pushed the Department of Veterans Affairs for answers after hearing from Iowa veterans frustrated with red tape and long lines for community care. The Protecting VeteranCommunity Care Act focuses on veterans’ access to inpatient mental health and requires the VA to report to Congress on how veterans use the community care program.

Q: Why is it important to raise awareness and talk openly about mental wellness?

A: Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May to promote education and advocacy for our fellow Americans affected by mental illness. Too many people deal with their challenges in silence, coping with depression, anxiety, loneliness and hopelessness without a support system to help ease the burden. In communities and households across the country, loved ones and neighbors are fighting these battles alone. For too long, the stigma associated with mental illness has prevented people from sharing their feelings with others or seeking care from a medical professional. That’s why I continue my efforts to reduce stigma and remove barriers to care. This includes opening pathways for healthcare providers in rural areas, including mental health practitioners. I supported legislation enacted in 2020 that increased funding for rural residency training and expanded Medicare-funded positions for 1,000 additional medical residency spots for graduates. The first 200 slots were announced earlier this year with three-quarters of the positions dedicated to primary care and mental health specialties.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 adults lives with a mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental health impacts productivity at work and school, affecting daily life and quality of life. Recent studies show the detrimental impact of pandemic-related school closures and isolation on millions of Americans, especially young people. The CDC reports that more than one in five young people (ages 13-18) currently suffer or have suffered from a seriously debilitating mental illness. In addition, suicide was the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-14 and 20-34. I encourage Iowans to break the silence and misplaced embarrassment associated with mental illness. The United States Surgeon General recently issued an advisory stating that the United States is experiencing an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. Have conversations with your children. Keep the lines of communication open with your friends and loved ones. Seeking treatment is the first step towards recovery.

If you know someone who is struggling or in crisis, call or text 988, or chat with For veterans or a service member, you can also contact the Veterans Crisis Line by texting 838255. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Line offers free, confidential, 24/7 assistance. 7, with a response from a qualified professional.

Related Article

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button